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Face-to-Face Discussions Next on Syria

Syrian Gov’t and Opposition To Discuss Ending Civil War

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government soldiers stand on their tank, in Jouret al-Shiyah neighborhood, in Homs, Syria, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government soldiers stand on their tank, in Jouret al-Shiyah neighborhood, in Homs, Syria, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)

  • Russian deputy Foreign Ministers Mikhail Bogdanov, center, arrives for a meeting with UN Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, to find a politic solution to the crisis in Syria, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)

    Russian deputy Foreign Ministers Mikhail Bogdanov, center, arrives for a meeting with UN Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, to find a politic solution to the crisis in Syria, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)

  • Russian deputy Foreign Minister  Gennady Gatilov arrives for a meeting with UN Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, to find a politic solution to the crisis in Syria, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, November 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)

    Russian deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov arrives for a meeting with UN Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, to find a politic solution to the crisis in Syria, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, November 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)

  • UN Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi arrives to inform the media after the UN announced the Conference Geneva 2 following a meeting with the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and the Russian deputy foreign ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, November 25, 2013.  (AP Photo/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi)

    UN Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi arrives to inform the media after the UN announced the Conference Geneva 2 following a meeting with the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and the Russian deputy foreign ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, November 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi)

  • UN Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi smiles as he addresses the media after the UN announced the Conference Geneva 2 following a meeting with the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and the Russian deputy foreign ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, November 25, 2013.  (AP Photo/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi)

    UN Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi smiles as he addresses the media after the UN announced the Conference Geneva 2 following a meeting with the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and the Russian deputy foreign ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, November 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi)

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government soldiers, walk at a street of Jouret al-Shiyah neighborhood, in Homs, Syria, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government soldiers, walk at a street of Jouret al-Shiyah neighborhood, in Homs, Syria, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)

  • FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 file citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian rebel fires a weapon towards Syrian government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC, File)

    FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 file citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian rebel fires a weapon towards Syrian government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC, File)

  • FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 file photo, a Shiite fighter clashes with members of the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army rebel in the town of Hatita, in the countryside of Damascus, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo, File)

    FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 file photo, a Shiite fighter clashes with members of the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army rebel in the town of Hatita, in the countryside of Damascus, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo, File)

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, which was taken on Saturday November 23, 2013, flames rising from a fuel tank that was burned by rebels shelling according to SANA, at fuel refinery, in Homs, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, which was taken on Saturday November 23, 2013, flames rising from a fuel tank that was burned by rebels shelling according to SANA, at fuel refinery, in Homs, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA and taken on Saturday November 23, 2013, Syrian firefighters extinguish a fuel tank that was burned by rebels shelling according to SANA, at fuel refinery, in Homs, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA and taken on Saturday November 23, 2013, Syrian firefighters extinguish a fuel tank that was burned by rebels shelling according to SANA, at fuel refinery, in Homs, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)

  • FILE - In this August 29, 2013, file photo, head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba, talks to the media at the end of a meeting with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

    FILE - In this August 29, 2013, file photo, head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba, talks to the media at the end of a meeting with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government soldiers stand on their tank, in Jouret al-Shiyah neighborhood, in Homs, Syria, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)
  • Russian deputy Foreign Ministers Mikhail Bogdanov, center, arrives for a meeting with UN Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, to find a politic solution to the crisis in Syria, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)
  • Russian deputy Foreign Minister  Gennady Gatilov arrives for a meeting with UN Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, to find a politic solution to the crisis in Syria, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, November 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)
  • UN Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi arrives to inform the media after the UN announced the Conference Geneva 2 following a meeting with the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and the Russian deputy foreign ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, November 25, 2013.  (AP Photo/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi)
  • UN Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi smiles as he addresses the media after the UN announced the Conference Geneva 2 following a meeting with the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and the Russian deputy foreign ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, November 25, 2013.  (AP Photo/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi)
  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government soldiers, walk at a street of Jouret al-Shiyah neighborhood, in Homs, Syria, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)
  • FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 file citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian rebel fires a weapon towards Syrian government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC, File)
  • FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 file photo, a Shiite fighter clashes with members of the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army rebel in the town of Hatita, in the countryside of Damascus, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo, File)
  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, which was taken on Saturday November 23, 2013, flames rising from a fuel tank that was burned by rebels shelling according to SANA, at fuel refinery, in Homs, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)
  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA and taken on Saturday November 23, 2013, Syrian firefighters extinguish a fuel tank that was burned by rebels shelling according to SANA, at fuel refinery, in Homs, Syria. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/SANA)
  • FILE - In this August 29, 2013, file photo, head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba, talks to the media at the end of a meeting with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France. Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announces. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

Beirut — Within 24 hours of an interim deal aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear program, world powers raised hopes Monday for the first face-to-face talks to end the Syrian civil war as the United Nations called the warring parties to the table.

But huge gaps remain. The opposition remains vague on whether it will even attend the Geneva conference called for Jan. 22, and both sides hold fundamentally different visions on the very basics, particularly the future role of President Bashar Assad.

Nevertheless, Monday’s announcement of a date for the talks after months of delay produced palpable hope that the precedent of successful nuclear negotiations with Iran might open new diplomatic channels that could help broker an end to the nearly 3-year-old civil war in Syria that has killed more than 100,000 people.

As Assad’s staunchest ally, Iran has given him significant financial support and is believed to have sent military advisers, trained pro-government militiamen and directed one of its proxies, Lebanon’s Shiite Muslim Hezbollah, to fight alongside Assad’s troops.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky played down the possibility that the negotiations with Iran played a direct role in the movement on Syria, which followed a meeting in Geneva of senior diplomats from the U.S., Russia and the U.N.

The two tracks “are very separate, both tracks have been going on in different formats, in different locations,” he told reporters. “So I would simply say that it was a good weekend for diplomacy.”

Still, a senior member in the main, Western-backed Syrian opposition coalition expressed hope the nuclear deal would transform Iran into a “positive regional player,” relinquishing its support for Assad.

A break between Iran and Assad is unlikely in the short term given the foothold the alliance gives Tehran in the Arab world. Still, a thaw between Iran and the U.S. — which backs the opposition coalition — could prompt Tehran to encourage Assad to make concessions, at least enough to keep talks going.

“If the Iran talks had not worked or if the Iranian deal had not come about yesterday, I think it might have been more hard-going today,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center. “In terms of the diplomatic atmosphere, there’s certainly a feeling of some impetus.”

The conference aims to work out a roadmap for Syria adopted by the U.S., Russia and other major powers in June 2012 — including creating a transitional government leading to the holding of elections.

Enormous challenges lie ahead. Even participation by both sides is by no means guaranteed.

Under pressure from the U.S., the Syrian National Coalition has dropped conditions that Assad step down before any talks and has eased demands for guarantees ahead of time that he will not be part of any transitional government — demands that the Syrian government has roundly rejected.

But the coalition is sticking to its condition that Assad release detainees and allow humanitarian corridors to provide access for desperately needed aid to rebel-held areas.

Previous attempts to bring Syria’s warring sides together have failed miserably, mainly because of disputes over who should represent the opposition and the government, as well as whether Iran, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers should be at the table, and — above all — whether Assad will remain in office in the future.